It’s certainly been a tense couple days, with the west watching in disbelief as Russia launches what seems to be a full-scale invasion of its Southern neighbor Georgia. Considering this is a country that, theoretically, almost joined NATO at the Bucharest summit a few months ago, this is quite a provocation to the West. Nothing seems clear right now about what Russia’s intentions are or even what they’re doing, but one thing is certain: relations between the West and Russia have been fundamentally altered by the last few days events.
According to witness reports, Russian tanks are now making their way to the Georgian capital of Tblisi, and nobody seems to know what they’re going to do once they get there. The Russian military is denying the claims. At the same time, there have been reports that Russian planes are bombing Georgian ships in the Black Sea.
This is a key test for how Europe and the United States are going to respond, and it will be interesting to see whether they take different paths. French president Sarkozy seems to be trying to take a leading role in dealing with the conflict, even suggesting that there should be an EU peacekeeping force put into Georgia. US president Bush’s reaction has been muddled and strangle by the inability of the US to really do anything about it.
All of the EU’s foreign ministers are having an emergency meeting in Brussels today to discuss what to do. But as predicted, there has been little agreement. The Baltic states and Poland are terrified that they’re going to be next, and they’re calling for a complete freeze in relations between the EU and Russia. The UK’s foreign minister David Miliband had some tough talk after the meeting and is calling for action. Germany and Italy are striking a more diplomatic tone and want to keep communication open with Moscow. And France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said that any talk about what this will mean for relations between the EU and Russia have to be put aside until they figure out how to stop the fighting. After today’s events, that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.
Today many people are asking, with the West’s obsession over the past eight years with terrorism, have we taken our eyes of a dangerous and resurgent Russia. Thanks to the US’s overextended military commitments in the Middle East and Europe’s continued inability to defend itself, the West is powerless to do anything about Russia’s aggression. And with reports of raping and pillaging by Russian forces spreading fast and furiously, the reality of the stark situation we’re facing is becoming more and more clear.